QUESTION: Can you illustrate your concerns about the lyrics of contemporary teen music, especially as they relate to attitudes toward parents?
DR. DOBSON: It might be helpful to see how popular music has changed over the years.
Let's go back to 1953, when the most popular song in the United States was sung by Eddie Fisher and was titled "Oh, My Papa." Here's a portion of the lyrics:
Oh, my papa, to me he was so wonderful
Oh, my papa, to me he was so good.
No one could be so gentle and so lovable,
Oh, my papa, he always understood.
Gone are the days when he would take me on his knee
And with a smile he'd change my tears to laughter.
Deep in my heart I miss him so today,
Oh, my papa. Oh, my papa.
That sentimental song accurately reflected the way many people felt about their fathers at that time in our history. Oh sure, there were conflicts and disagreements, but family was family. When it was all said and done, parents were entitled to respect and loyalty.
By the time I had reached college age, things were starting to change. The subject of conflict between parents and teenagers began to appear as a common theme in artistic creations. The movie "Rebel Without a Cause" featured a screen idol named James Dean who seethed with anger at his "old man." Marlon Brando starred in "The Wild One," another movie with rebellion as its theme. Rock 'n' roll music portrayed it, too.
But what began as engaging drama turned decidedly bitter in the late '60s. Everyone in those days was talking about the "generation gap" that had erupted between young people and their parents. Teenagers and college students vowed they'd never again trust anyone older than 30, and their anger toward parents began to percolate. The Doors released a song in 1967 entitled "The End," in which lead singer Jim Morrison fantasized about killing his father.
In 1984, Twisted Sister released "We're Not Gonna Take It," which referred to a father as a "disgusting slob" who was "worthless and weak." Then he was blasted out the window of a second-story apartment.
This theme of killing parents showed up regularly in the decade that followed. A group called Suicidal Tendencies released a recording in 1983 called, "I Saw Your Mommy." Here is an excerpt from the lyrics:
I saw your mommy and your mommy's dead.
I watched her as she bled,
Chewed-off toes on her chopped-off feet.
I took a picture because I thought it was neat.
I saw your mommy, and your mommy's dead.
I saw her lying in a pool of red;
I think it's the greatest thing I'll ever see --
Your dead mommy lying in front of me
For sheer depravity, nothing yet produced can match "Momma's Gotta Die Tonight," by Ice-T and Body Count. Most of the lyrics are unfit to quote here, but they involved graphic descriptions of the rapper's mother being burned in her bed, then beaten to death with a baseball bat she had given him as a present, and finally the mutilation of the corpse into "little-bitty pieces." What incredible violence!
There was not a hint of guilt or remorse expressed by the rapper while telling us of this murder. In fact, he called his mother a "racist b---," and laughed while chanting, "Burn, Mama, burn."
My point is that the most popular music of our culture went from the inspiration of "Oh, My Papa" to the horrors of "Momma's Gotta Die Tonight" in scarcely more than a generation. The younger generation has been bombarded with more anti-family rhetoric than any that preceded it.
When added to equally disturbing messages about drug usage, sex and violence against women, the impact has to be considered formidable.
MTV, which promotes the worst stuff available, is telecast into 231 million households in 75 countries, more than any other cable network. I believe many of the problems that plague this generation, from suicide to unwed pregnancy to murder, can be traced to the venom dripped into its veins by the entertainment industry in general.
One of the consequences of this shift in the popular culture is a generation that sees itself and its elders less respectfully than the generations who have preceded them. There are still millions of responsible and respectful teenagers out there, of course, but the culture in which they are growing up has changed -- for the worse.